When the thermometer tops 30 degrees Centigrade, the melting-pot of New York city turns into a simmering cauldron. It has been one of those days, with low cloud pushing the humidity up, and creating a muggy atmosphere that teased the already frayed nerves of the city's commuting public.
I began walking uptown, against the wave of pedestrian traffic, as the sun began sinking below the line of the tallest buildings. After a block or two, I became aware of an unusually high number of police officers around, directing the traffic, or watching the passing pedestrians from below the peaks of their severely tilted hats.
Further up the street, their ranks were swelled by legions of plain-clothes officers, identifiable by their dark business suits, and the tightly-coiled earphone wires running down the backs of their shirts. Their vehicles, all black, all larger than the average New York family car, stood in stark contrast to the paler, gaudily adorned vehicles of their uniformed counterparts.
I reached my destination, flashed my photo-identification card at the nearest police officer, who was patiently explaining to an agitated woman why she could not be admitted without proper identification, and headed down the street to a tall, mirror-covered building. I sat down in the paved courtyard beside the entrance to the building, and pulled out my pen and note pad. On the opposite side of the street, the United Nations elite and their wives paraded, waiting for tables to become available in the hotel restaurant. To my left, a man finished his cigarette, stubbing it out on the bricks before rising and pacing to the edge of the road. Looking impatiently at his watch, he sighed, and walked back to his former perch on the edge of an immaculate pot plant.
I waited about ten minutes before a short, business-suited Asian man exited the building, and walked uncertainly towards me.
"Nicol?" he asked, straightening his tie. I nodded and extended my hand. He grasped it briefly, before leading me into the building and down a set of stairs.
The interview lasted about a half an hour. Afterwards, I retraced my steps down-town, smiling to myself as I walked. The sun had nearly set, and the first tentative drops of rain began to fall, lowering the impossible temperature only slightly. I bought a doughnut two blocks from my apartment, and ate it under the shop awning on the sidewalk, spilling powdered sugar over my black purse as I did. It was a small celebration for a personal victory, but I felt it was worth it.
Sounding enough like a detective story yet? I couldn't resist trying my hand at the style, because the atmosphere on the upper west side yesterday really lent itself to it. In reality, all I was doing was attending an audition for a choir (I got in, by the way), but it was held in the basement of a United Nations building, and because of the opening of the general assembly, the streets were literally crawling with police officers and general security. And American security services really do look just as they are portrayed in the films. The dark suits, black SUVs and discrete ear-pieces are a reality!
Unfortunately, today my attendance at my first choir rehearsal was thwarted. I have fallen victim to the inevitable "new city tummy", though there is just a slight possibility that it may be an e coli infection. I am already feeling much better, though, and the doctor I saw this morning suggested just resting up and keeping hydrated, so I am certain I will be 100% tomorrow.